Technology

Advances in mobile technology and data availability are altering buyer agency forever

Homebuyers are becoming less concerned with representation and more with the immediacy of information
  • Buyers aren't concerned with representation, only information.
  • New software products are bypassing industry expertise with the power of data.
  • Savvy real estate agents will learn to work alongside tech instead of trying to outsmart it.

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The future of buyer agency is in the hands of the buyers.

Sometimes, it’s also in their pockets or plugged into car dashboards. Other times their kids are poking away at it on the way home from hockey, Minecrafting.

Mobile devices and the technological revolution they’re spawning is changing the way agents interact with buyers and how homes are being pursued and purchased.

In the last few months, I’ve shared in this space three software products that pave the way for consumers to approach the owner of any home in an effort to buy it.

They are Everyhome.co, Inquiso and Proffer.

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Everyhome facilitates negotiations between an interested home seller and buyer. If an agent wants to get involved to finalize the sale, once invited by the two parties, he or she is eligible for a $4,000 commission.

Sellers who list via Everyhome can even choose which buyers are eligible to submit an offer.

Talk about control.

We’re now closer than ever before to an unshackled real estate sales environment.

Inquiso leverages a powerful combination of public data and proprietary search functionality to unearth the contact information for even the most deliberately evasive property owners.

Anyone can create an account.

Inquiso does market to agents, but its true value is to investors seeking “that one deal” to land before others catch wind of its potential.

Proffer is a company I found in Startup Alley at Connect. Like Everyhome, Proffer will submit for users nonbinding “pre-offers” on any home, on- or off-market.

We’re now closer than ever before to an unshackled real estate sales environment.

How far are we then from a completely open market powered by enriched, intelligent data delivered to us by hand-held devices?

Inman’s Teke Wiggin spearheaded an Inman Special Report in July on the growth of hybrid brokerages.

The term “hybrid brokerage” has long stood to represent any agency that attempted to circumvent the traditional commission structure.

I believe “hybrid brokerage” will soon mean something much different as technology pushes the boundaries of what consumers are able to accomplish without formal representation.

The special report found that few agents thought of technology as a driving force behind emerging brokerage models.

I find that frighteningly naive.

Technology could very well be dismantling the very concept of buyer agency.

In a follow-up to that special report, Inman COO Morgan Brown posited that better technology shouldn’t be implemented as an avenue to reduce costs in providing real estate services, but to better the customer experience.

Brown wrote, “Could it be that hybrids are doing themselves a disservice by tying their superior tech to the simple promise of lower-cost transactions? I can’t help but wonder if these tech-enabled brokerages would be better off focusing on the total value proposition of better technology instead of it as a means to an end of lower fees.”

Ultimately, that’s what it will come down to.

Can buyers of homes get better service with technology or with an agent? Or some combination of both?

Combined with the rapidly growing on-demand services and curb-calling of agents, there’s little doubting the power homebuyers now possess over an industry that once guarded its market knowledge like wolves do an elk carcass.

In a more recent special report, “Why and how real estate needs to clean house,” curated by Inman’s award-winning deputy editor Andrea V. Brambila, a survey respondent recognized technology’s expanding role in the real estate customer experience.

“As technology becomes better and faster, the relevance of agents in the next three to five years could be in trouble,” said one new Realtor.

“Customers are already finding homes without agents, can process a loan online. The next phase is title search, inspections, closings, etc., without leaving your desk.”

However, the evolution of buyer agency as a fully consumer-driven service can very well be taking value away from the transaction.

I believe that agent insight remains a driver of price, strategy and industry process.

But for how much longer?

Everyhome’s software churns data to come up with list price. (No, it’s not a Zestimate. It’s better.)

Surely it will take time for the market to adjust to unlicensed, tech-emboldened consumers wielding its best practices like a blindfolded child batting at a piñata.

Eventually though, the market will break open.

What will spill is tough to predict. The industry may benefit, or grow ill from its offerings. I suspect the former.

Of course, we’ll never know unless we take off our blindfolds.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe.